Former congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro died recently. She is perhaps best remembered for being the first woman to run on a major party’s ticket as Vice President.
I respect the work that she did as a trailblazer. But for goodness sake, let’s stop whitewashing her past.
Her 2008 statement about Barack Obama wasn’t an aberration. It was completely consistent with her history:
“If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position,” Ferraro told California’s “Daily Breeze” newspaper. “And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.”
When challenged, this is what happened:
“Soon after, Ferraro stepped down from her post on the Clinton campaign and accused the Obama campaign of twisting her words to make her appear racist. She then doubled down in another interview with the Daily Breeze and said, “Racism works in two different directions. I really think they’re attacking me because I’m white. How’s that?”
Ferraro later told the New York Times that she thought Obama was “terribly sexist” and that she might not even vote for him.”
Obama was conciliatory and politically astute after the above remarks and at her passing.
But this exchange wasn’t out of character:
“In deference to the sentiments in her district, Ferraro voted in favor of some conservative legislation, such as a proposed constitutional amendment banning mandatory busing for school desegregation, tuition tax credits for private schools, and school prayer.”
Check out her behavior (and Mario Cuomo’s) during the Queens’ desegregation battles. Eye opening.
Can people transcend their pasts? Absolutely. Do they always? Of course not.
Let’s stop kidding ourselves. Rep. Ferraro might have been a straight talking, sometimes abrasive politician. There might be some justice to her remarks. There is also some racism. And arrogance. And mean spiritedness. And it didn’t start during the 2008 primaries.
Making imperfect human beings into saints? A fool’s errand.
Geraldine Ferraro. Rest in peace.